On Saturday, a bystander captured the terrifying moment a sea lion snatched an unsuspecting young girl off of a seaside dock in British Columbia, dragging the scared girl into the water as those on the dock looked on in horror.
The incident occurred at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf in Richmond, British Columbia, and was filmed by university student Michael Fujiwara, who told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that a crowd had gathered to observe the large male sea lion as it swam near the docks.
Fujiwara told the CBC that some of the onlookers began feeding the sea lion bread crumbs before the unnamed girl decided to sit precariously close to the dock’s edge.
“And [the sea lion] initially jumped up to the girl to read her I guess,” Fujiwara told the CBC. “And then it came back up a second time, but this time grabbing the girl by the waist and dragging her down into the water.”
Fujiwara noted that the family of the little girl was “pretty shaken up” by the encounter.
Though the girl survived without injury, officials with the port authority and marine mammal researchers are admonishing the girl’s parents for allowing her to get so close to a large wild animal and for not respecting the sea lion’s boundaries.
“My first reaction to the video is just how stupid some people can be to not treat wildlife with proper respect,” Andrew Trites, the director of the University of British Columbia’s Marine Mammal Research Unit, told the CBC. “This was a male California sea lion. They are huge animals. They are not circus performers. They’re not trained to be next to people.”
“You wouldn’t go up to a grizzly bear in the bush and hand him a ham sandwich, so you shouldn’t be handing a thousand-pound wild mammal in the water slices of bread,” Robert Kiesman, chair of the Steveston Harbour Authority, told the CBC in a separate interview. “And you certainly shouldn’t be letting your little girl sit on the edge of the dock with her dress hanging down after the sea lion has already snapped at her once. Just totally reckless behavior.”
As for how people should react when encountering sea lions, Trites gave the CBC simple advice.
“You keep your distance,” Trites said. “Watch the animals, but let wildlife be wildlife.”
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